May 02, 2013

ASCAP Applauds USTR Special 301 Report

New York, NY, May 2, 2013: The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) welcomes yesterday’s annual report from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), in which USTR specifically calls on foreign governments to ensure that adequate copyright payments are made when U.S. musical compositions are performed in TV and radio broadcasts, over cable systems and in all other kinds of public performances. American music is among our most important cultural exports and continues to grow in popularity around the world. Improved compliance with these international copyright obligations will help boost U.S. jobs and our economy, bringing fairer compensation to ASCAP’s 460,000 members. In addition, respect for the public performance right benefits music creators around the world. ASCAP looks forward to working with USTR and other trade agencies in the U.S. government to translate yesterday’s report into concrete benefits for songwriters, composers and music publishers.

We are especially pleased that, for the first time, USTR has placed Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago on the Special 301 Watch List, and has also cited public performance royalties as a reason to retain Jamaica on that list. ASCAP urged USTR to do so, because in all these countries, leading cable operators and broadcasters refuse to pay for the public performance of music, or even to negotiate with the local performing rights organizations (ASCAP’s partners). In these countries and throughout the Caribbean region, issues of nonpayment go without remedy before the courts and other government authorities, and ASCAP applauds the efforts of USTR to increase government accountability for these failings.

ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams commented: “While the royalties lost to rogue cable operators in the Caribbean may seem small, they are meaningful to American songwriters and composers who may use them to put a child through school or pay their rent. ASCAP takes seriously our mission to help our members receive payment when their works are being exploited for profit by foreign businesses.”

Serious shortfalls in respect for the public performance right can also be found in other countries named by USTR, including Bulgaria (Watch List) and Russia (Priority Watch List), where local practices make it impossible to properly collect royalties owed. In India (Priority Watch List), courts have stripped the local PRO completely of its ability to collect for radio broadcasts of music. Finally, in China (Priority Watch List), TV and radio broadcasts of U.S. works went entirely uncompensated until the first-ever adopted broadcast tariffs came into force in 2010, but collections there still are exceedingly low by any objective standard.

Added Williams: “When an economy as large as China’s pays us less than Honduras for public performances, it is clear the issue needs to be addressed. Individual songwriters and composers are essentially small businesses who do not have the resources to enforce their rights abroad. As the performance of American music proliferates around the world, the advocacy work ASCAP does for our members in the global arena is vital to the future ability of songwriters to make a living from their work. ASCAP will continue to work with its foreign affiliates, with foreign governments, and with USTR to see that the difficulties in these countries are remedied.”

The full version of the 2013 Special 301 Report is available here.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is a professional membership organization of songwriters, composers and music publishers of every kind of music. ASCAP’s mission is to license and promote the music of its members and foreign affiliates, obtain fair compensation for the public performance of their works and to distribute the royalties that it collects based upon those performances. ASCAP members write the world’s best-loved music and ASCAP has pioneered the efficient licensing of that music to hundreds of thousands of enterprises who use it to add value to their business – from bars, restaurants and retail, to radio, TV and cable, to Internet, mobile services and more. The ASCAP license offers an efficient solution for businesses to legally perform ASCAP music while respecting the right of songwriters and composers to be paid fairly. With over 460,000 members representing more than 8.5 million copyrighted works, ASCAP is the worldwide leader in performance royalties, service and advocacy for songwriters and composers, and the only American performing rights organization (PRO) owned and governed by its writer and publisher members.

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